Player Profile: Mike & Ryan Drost
By Adam Ruffner & Caitlin Cieslik-Miskimen
There aren’t meant to be any standouts on the New York Empire. The squad identifies itself as a faceless mob, an order of anonymity seeking to contribute to the greater whole of the team. Ten weeks into the season, this mentality has once again helped make the Empire a threat in the East Division. That makes it somewhat problematic—and a little ironic—to acknowledge that part of the team’s success lies in the defensive efforts of Mike and Ryan Drost.
It’s problematic because highlighting their efforts goes against the whole definition of a faceless mob.
It’s ironic because the two happen to be identical twins whose favorite professional sports team is the Minnesota Twins; they even have a “Twins on Twins” blog.
“We’re best friends,” Ryan said.
The pair of 6’1”, brown-haired and brown-eyed defensive cutters have only played ultimate together for two seasons, but are quickly becoming an integral part of the Empire’s notoriously stifling defense. They each have their individual talents—Mike is a self-described “gamer,” a rabid follower of ultimate; Ryan is very proud of their two-time Seinfeld trivia titles—but their ESP-like connection on the field has helped the tandem quickly fall into a playing rhythm that would take others years to cultivate. Within weeks of playing together on the Empire, they could predict each other’s moves and use that to their advantage on the field.
“We’re usually on the same page,” said Mike, the older of the two by 90 minutes. “Some people you play with them for a while, you eventually get the hang of it—we had that from the start. It’s fun playing together. We grew up together, we’re best friends.”
“Just innately we have the same strategy, we look at things the same way—that goes for anything, but also playing ultimate,” Ryan added.
“I can’t say it’s very rare, because there are a lot of teams that have been playing together for a very long time,” Mike said. “But being on the same page is very important and advantageous, especially on defense, because we’re able to react together and know what each other is going to do.”
Suiting up for the Empire marks just the second time the two have been on the same team since middle school; they were rostered together in 2013 with NY 7 Express, but hardly played together (Ryan was on O-line, while Mike played defense). Growing up, the two were competitive with one another, but different high school extra curriculars meant the twins were never on the same field at the same time (and that they never got to pull off any place-switching shenanigans growing up, though they have been mistaken by New York captain Isaiah Bryant on more than one occasion). Playing together—and having such similar approaches to the game and an understanding of strategy—now means that the two can build off their back-and-forth rapport. Heck, they even had the same injury, a dislocated shoulder, within a few months of each other on the same side of their bodies.
“We certainly measure ourselves against each other, but now we can appreciate more of a friendly competition against each other,” Mike said, who actually followed his younger brother into the sport.
“We definitely get upset with each other because we expect a lot out of each other,” Ryan quickly added. “We are just pushing each other to be better, really.”
“The things we argue about [on the field] are about the small detail things,” Mike continued. “Big picture things we are usually in agreement. We sound like an old couple because any arguments we have are about the small things.”
Ryan cut in: “So, like, yesterday at practice, we were running one thing and I was expecting Mike to cut one way and he didn’t. So you know, we get worked up over little things like that. We expect each other to really understand, and can’t get really stubborn when the other doesn’t.”
“Thankfully, we usually forget about them really quickly,” Mike said.
There’s a leader-follower rapport to most of the Drosts’ exchanges. Statistically, the two trade off in categories for the Empire. Together they’ve notched 33 Ds this season, with Mike leading the team with an AUDL Top 10-worthy 19 (Ryan is close behind with 14). Ryan is the team’s season leader in points played with 206 (47 Off./ 159 Def.), with a comfortable margin over Mike (172, 21 Off./ 151 Def.). Ryan has 12 goals on the season, and Mike trails with 11.
Ultimate-wise, Mike gets the credit for pioneering the professional scene. Both Drosts played in college, but Mike first joined the Empire in 2013. When Ryan saw him play, he knew he wanted in on the action, and tried out the next year after he had fully recovered from a that pesky (almost genetic) dislocated shoulder.
“For the record, I want to point out that I was the first to play ultimate,” Ryan clarified. “I played for a year first, then I told Mike to play. And I had the injury first. I just didn’t get surgery right away.”
“It’s fun playing together,” he added.